A 551-case increase in coronavirus positives on Tuesday comes in the middle of a plateau in the local curve, officials said. 

Daily case counts and hospitalizations are high and will remain high in the coming weeks, officials added, citing predictive models public health officials used to follow the trajectory of the outbreak in San Antonio.

Wearing masks and practicing social distancing are the only way that Bexar County will see the numbers trend downward, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Tuesday briefing.  

“COVID-19, of course, has changed all of our lives, but you do have the power to make a difference in a very meaningful way this year” by practicing these safety measures, Nirenberg said.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that the most helpful thing that could take place at present would be for there to be a nationwide mandate requiring masks, which is what took place in countries that “are faring much better” than those without a mask mandate. 

“If we hadn’t been stripped of the right to [require] masks, we would have been much better off like most of Europe is,” Wolff said. “We were a little late in the game with the governor coming in.”

On July 3, Gov. Greg Abbott mandated face coverings statewide in counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases.

While seemingly on the right track now, Bexar County has 1,166 people currently hospitalized, of which 435 are in intensive care, and 228 are on ventilators. 

Ten percent of hospital beds are available, along with 47 percent of ventilators, as the hospital system remains under severe stress, Nirenberg said. 

With 12 more deaths among Bexar County residents, the toll rose to 274.

Ages and ethnic background of deceased
  • 6 Hispanic women ranging in age from 50 to 99
  • 4 Hispanic men ranging in age from 80 to 99
  • 1 white woman in her 60s.

To help with the massive blow to the local hospital system, nurses, and respiratory care specialists with the Department of Defense have been deployed to Bexar County to help accommodate the growing number of hospitalized patients. 

Dr. Lynette Watkins, chief medical officer of Baptist Health System, said that while every COVID-19 patient is treated differently based on symptoms, most in dire circumstances require breathing support by way of ventilator intubation because the airways are obstructed. 

Some patients on ventilators are in a medically induced coma, Watkins said, and some of them are needing this treatment due to a response to medication or to the illness itself and how it manifests in the body. 

“We place these patients on additional support to help them breathe, and sometimes in order to make sure that the patient is as comfortable as possible,” Watkins said. 

In addition to those adult COVID-19 patients who have difficulty breathing, of particular concern has been the increase in the number of children younger than 1 year old who tested positive for COVID-19. More than 220 infants have been diagnosed in Bexar County. 

Symptoms for infants tend to be milder, but it’s a concern to see an uptick in infections among young children, Assistant City Manager and interim Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger said. 

“We do not have any COVID-19-related deaths” in this age range, Bridger said, but infants’ immune systems aren’t as well developed as those of adults. 

“It’s important for new parents to avoid large gatherings, particularly with” newborns, but it continues to be important for all of us to do so, Bridger said. “It’s really better to [stay at home] and avoid being out in the community until we can get that virus under control.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.